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Hecht, Connolly dealing with wounded knees

The joy of winning has once again been cut off at the knees for Jochen Hecht and Tim Connolly.

Hecht reinjured his right medial collateral ligament Thursday night in the Buffalo Sabres' 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he said he will be out at least two weeks. Connolly's sore left MCL prohibited him from even dressing Thursday, and the Sabres center will miss Saturday's showdown with the Ottawa Senators as well.

Hecht fell to the ice with 4:50 remaining in the second period, and as he went to get up his skates slid out from under him, forcing him into a split. He limped directly to the dressing room.

"It felt exactly the same as last time," said Hecht, who injured the knee in mid-February and had to miss two games and the Olympics.

"I felt a tweak in the knee and then I heard it pop."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Connolly has a bruised knee.

Connolly sprained his MCL in January and missed a dozen games. He tweaked the knee again Tuesday while trying to check a Washington player, but he said Wednesday he was spared serious injury because of the brace he'd been wearing.

He practiced fully Wednesday and took part in the morning skate Thursday, but doctors suggested a two-game respite.

Connolly's absence created an opening for winger Taylor Pyatt, a healthy scratch the previous four games. Pyatt played 14:17, including 2:20 of penalty killing, and drew praise throughout the dressing room.

"I thought Taylor played with a lot of pizzazz, a lot of determination," Ruff said.

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The NHL owners, on pace to set an all-time attendance record, are rolling in the dough. Next season, the players will feel the benefits.

The rise in revenues will create a rise in the salary cap, with early estimates pegging a $7 million jump. The cap could rise from $39 million to $46 million, while the minimum payroll may go from $21.5 million to $29 million.

Defenseman Jay McKee, the Sabres' representative to the NHL Players' Association, took part in a conference call Wednesday night in which the association began discussing what to do with the additional funds.

The NHL, which wasn't sure if fans would return after the lockout, created an escrow system this year. Owners kept portions of players' paychecks and put them into an account to ensure that no more than 54 percent of revenues went to the players. Some players feel all the added revenues should go toward raising the salary cap. NHLPA Executive Director Ted Saskin, though, wants to get rid of the escrow account by using only half the revenue increase toward the salary cap.

"Players right now are focused on playing hockey and putting their teams in better position fighting for a playoff spot," McKee said. "We'll wait until the summer and hopefully have a better idea of all the revenues and playoff revenues."

One thing that's certain is the distrust between the owners and players that contributed to the lockout has waned.

"I think it's a good system in that both sides are working hard at bringing out all the numbers, showing everything," McKee said. "They're working together. Anyone who was worried that money was being hidden, not brought to table, I think it's clear and cut now."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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